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Dealing with unexpected retirement expenses

Unless you're a multimillionaire, your concept of retirement and reality may be worlds apart. You envision daily rounds of golf, hitting the road in a huge RV and smacking down your Visa at every cash register within a three-state radius -- really living the life of the bumper sticker that says, "We're spending our kids' inheritance."

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Thing is, it may not be their inheritance you're spending but your own hedge against inflation and unanticipated expenses.

The bad news is the majority of future retirees won't have enough to meet their obligations without help. The good news? It's not too late to fix the problem.

But there are drawbacks -- it takes time, hard work and commitment, not to mention self-denial and readjustment of expectations, to face retirement on solid ground.

Checklist
A lot of different forces may be yanking at your money but many are within your control. First we provide a short list of unexpected bad luck; next, some ways to deal with real-life scenarios.
Retirement Roulette
1. Some bad luck you may run into
2. Taking control: the story of Jack and Jenny
3. Pitfalls of keeping up with the Joneses
4. Preparing for health care expenses
5. Stayin' alive: a tale of survival

Some bad luck you may run into
Additional (unanticipated) dependents. Your elderly parents need help. Your adult child hits a rough spot and moves back in. Suddenly, you're sandwiched. The income judged perfect for two must stretch to accommodate three or more people.

Big-ticket expenses. Your roof needs replacing. Your car, refrigerator or heat pump dies. Termites turn up in your walls. Do you have the cash to cover expenses like these?

Too much debt. You finance your car, put your clothes and groceries on credit cards and buy major appliances on time. Soon the interest piles up and your payments barely punch a hole in your original debt.

A bout of bad health. Escalating health costs continue to drive up out-of-pocket expenses. What happens when the cash you counted on to pay other bills must be diverted to health concerns?

Rising taxes. Maybe your taxes fall into the manageable range now, but what about in 10 years? Congress is already rumbling about raising taxes and that's not the only chunk of cash the government covets. Local property, sales and state income taxes are also almost certain to increase.

 
 
Next: "A home is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it."
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